Bulk-loading rail terminal to be built in Cedar City

Savage isn’t saying what commodities its ‘railport’ would ship, but Utah coal is a likely candidate

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Savage Services operate this recently built "railport" on the Union Pacific tracks in Tooele for loading material between trucks and railcars.

A Utah logistics firm intends to build a rail transloading facility in Iron County, potentially connecting Utah agricultural products and minerals, including coal, to the national rail network and West Coast export terminals.

The Midvale-based Savage Companies on Wednesday announced plans to build a truck-to-rail transloading facility on the Union Pacific tracks about 10 miles northwest of Cedar City.

“It would be a multi-commodity terminal. The types of material moved depend largely on market demands,” said company spokesman Jeff Hymas. “We anticipate that the types could include a variety of ag products, construction materials, and other types of dry-bulk or liquid-bulk materials.”

The loading facility will be operational in 12 to 15 months, according to Hymas, who said the products to be shipped have yet to be determined.

The proposed “Savage Railport-Southern Utah” would transfer bulk loads from truck to rail for outbound shipments and rail to truck for inbound shipments.

“This transportation infrastructure investment will drive economic growth and support jobs by helping connect farmers and businesses in Cedar City, St. George and rural communities throughout southern Utah with broader domestic and global markets,” said Jason Ray, Savage’s chief development officer.

The project has no connection with the major inland port under development in Salt Lake City, according to Hymas.

The Utah Inland Port Authority is evaluating candidate towns for a network of rural “satellite” ports, including one near Cedar City, which is situated on Interstate 15 midway between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas and has a regional airport.

Iron County has secured a $445,000 grant through the U.S. Department’s Rural Innovation Stronger Economy, or RISE, program to conduct a market assessment for a “multimodal logistics center” for southern Utah, according to minutes from the Iron County Commission’s Aug. 22 meeting.

“The project would eventually result in the construction of the multimodal logistics center that would reduce truck transport and expand the capabilities of the freight rail movement,” the minutes said.

That sounds almost identical to what Savage is already seeking to build, but the two projects would not necessarily compete with each other, according to Iron County planning official Reed Erickson. He said the two may even complement one another.

Erickson received Savage’s application for a conditional use permit only last week and he has yet to review it. He expects the permit will be discussed publicly at the county Planning Commission’s Nov. 3 meeting.

The project is proposed on a 74-acre parcel Savage recently acquired in Iron Springs on a Union Pacific spur line connecting Cedar City with the main tracks to the west, according to Erickson.

Savage operates a network of at least 50 transloading terminals in North America, including a long-standing terminal in Wellington that handles coal and oil and another that it just built in Tooele.

Commodities to be moved through its proposed Cedar City facility could include coal mined 60 miles away in Alton. In recent years, the Coal Hollow Mine shifted its open-pit extraction from private land to a large tract of public land under a lease approved by the Trump administration.

The mine will lose its primary customer by 2025 when the Intermountain Power Plant switches from burning coal to natural gas and hydrogen. That leaves Asian nations as the most likely future destination for much of the coal produced by Alton Coal Development, a company that happens to be headquartered in Cedar City.

The 2015 environmental review of Alton’s federal lease indicated the coal would ship to West Coast export terminals from a rail loading facility to be built in around the same location Savage is now proposing for its loading terminal.

Hymas said he knows of no current plans for Savage’s proposed facility to handle coal or to move any other specific product.

Company executives are participating in Gov. Spencer Cox’s One Utah Summit in Cedar City next week to discuss infrastructure projects and will host an information booth where additional information about the plan will be available.